Imagination Can Help Save Small Schools

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

Imagination Can Help Save Small Schools


Byline: By DAVID REYNOLDS

The trouble in those areas that are considering shutting some of their small rural primary schools, like Denbighshire and Carmarthen, have forced this issue to centre stage again.

Parents' groups are strongly opposed to closures, but councils have their own reasons for wanting to shut.

Local councils have had what they regard as a poor financial settlement for 2005/6, which increases pressures on the schools budget. The workforce reform policies, which are fully funded in England, are apparently not so in Wales, increasing the pressure.

Also, in Wales we have a higher proportion of surplus places than does England, so a higher proportion of our education expenditure is wasted on heating classrooms that aren't used, and maintaining buildings for teaching that aren't going to be used for it.

The costs per year in little rural schools can be as high as pounds 6,500 per pupil, compared to pounds 3,000 or less in some of the larger schools. Apparently, in a couple of very small primary schools - of perhaps 10 or 15 pupils - this cost reaches pounds 8,500 per year.

Also having only one or two teachers in a school may mean it is hard to develop 'critical mass' to improve. Absence of staff could be devastating. And having a class of 30 kids with a chronological age from seven to 11 implies a very difficult teaching situation for teachers.

But the small rural primaries have positive aspects. International evidence suggests that they 'add value' to how children do in academic areas and that they can help with children's social development too, more than big, anonymous schools. …

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